innovation

Who Says Innovation Has to Be Difficult?

While breakthrough technologies and new scientific discoveries tend to hog media headlines, it bears remembering that incremental changes—slight shifts in business strategy or thinking—can be every bit as powerful as revolutionary advancements when it comes to engaging your membership and growing your meetings. Sometimes all it takes for an organization to get ahead is a minor shift in tactics or perspective.

Take, for example, L&T General Insurance and its efforts to break into the large and diverse Indian market. Instead of applying a Western business model and installing branches in every remote town and village, it equipped insurance agents with smartphones and tablets with cloud-based apps capable of issuing policies and processing claims on the spot. Rather than hoping customers would come to them, agents went out to the customers. In less than two years, the company had built a $28 million business that had issued over 100,000 policies.

When medical device leader Medtronic wanted to expand its already successful business throughout Western Europe and beyond, it didn’t double-down on cutting-edge devices. It reinvented its business model, adding services and establishing new business units that put owned-and-operated labs inside hospitals. The result was increased business and partners with significant improvements in customer service and cost-savings.

When Newell Rubbermaid’s Contigo brand wanted to find a way to differentiate its products in the crowded market for portable containers and cups, it didn’t want to invest a fortune in dozens of product roll-outs, attempting to guess what working professionals on the go would want. It simply studied busy travel sites, where commuters tend to congregate. After discovering that passengers were constantly wiping off their mugs’ mouth guards on napkins, sleeves, and handkerchiefs, the company introduced a new line of travel mugs with special covers designed to keep out dirt.

As an executive, ask yourself, ‘What kinds of new solutions could your team come up with if you made a few simple changes?’ What are you doing to foster that innovation? Do you have online platforms for sharing ideas? Have you ever held a salon to bring staff together from different divisions and experience levels? Or how about a 48-hour jam session, where everyone is invited to brainstorm new concepts and build working prototypes before the off-site is over? What kinds of simple shifts in positioning and messaging could you make to give your meetings or meeting planning processes a fresh shot of excitement and relevance?

While it’s not always obvious, innovation is easier than you think. All it takes to successfully steer around a challenge or overcome a problem is a sense of perspective and a willingness to be more creative with how you apply the tools at hand.

Scott Steinberg, a trend expert and futurist, is author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, and other business books. He’s also the founder of travel and hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch.

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